Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dominic Lim's Kapitan Basura - Playful But Half Baked

Bobet Balachuchi (Victor Anastacio) doesn’t aspire much in life, except the affection of his pretty neighbour Rowena (Gee Canlas, “Melodrama Negra”). He manages his junk shop and lives with his emotionally volatile mother Aling Baby (Angelina Kanapi) and blind sister (Julieanne Raye Nellasca). His best friend is a charming scavenger Kenneth Balboa (Dan Lim) who moonlights as a cell phone snatcher. While Bobet is cocksure and confident, he shrinks whenever Rowena’s around.

When a speeding truck accidentally hurtles straight towards his junk shop, Bobet becomes part of the rubble. Miraculously, he survives without cracking a limb. What’s more disturbing, he discovers special abilities like super strength and the ability to attract garbage. 

Before long, Bobet starts using his powers to save people: crushing asteroids from space; saving a troubled airplane, rescuing folks from a burning building. Kapitan Basura is born. Soon, he gets endorsement deals and considerable front page spreads. Even the mayor of Purok Ocho (Jobert Austria) has ebullient words to say about the popular hero.

Meanwhile, a series of disappearances is troubling the community. Customers of facial clinics turn missing, among them is Rowena who, by this time, is falling for Bobet. Is there a monster abducting people? Does Bobet’s physician, Dr. Chupacabra Sanchez (James Caraan) have anything to do with this turn of events? Guess.

Kapitan Basura” is director Dominic Lim’s first full length feature; one of the six chosen entries in the second edition of Sineng Pambansa (National Film Festival), a flagship program of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). The festival kicked off in Davao City late last year and the entries have been doing their rounds all over the country’s other film hubs like Iloilo, Baguio, Davao, Marawi, Pampanga and (hold your breath) even Tawi Tawi. Why the festival is keeping a curiously low profile in Manila is really a mystery. But let me delve first into the film’s merits first.

Victor Anastacio and James Caraan play hero and villain respectively.

Playing like a nonchalant comedy of manners, the narrative oddly anchors on the myth of everyman’s super hero coupled with tangential references to environmental concern. 

While the performances are enthusiastic, it soon becomes clear that the actors are left to their own devices, thus the unexpurgated thespic borborygmus brought in by its cast, especially Angelina Kanapi who pulls out all the stops to ham it up, playing mostly to the peanut gallery. In the first quarter of the film, there’s a scene involving the consumption of an oily slab of fried chicken that went on longer than necessary. Why that scene was perceived as humorous was as wildly baffling as Kim Chiu’s so-called “moving on” three years after a breakup with Gerald Anderson.

As the story delves into “mad scientist” territory, we are soon diverted to a montage of farcical moments that range from cardboard cut-outs of planes and buildings to rubbery appendages of a B-movie monster. Like a silly sitcom episode, the scenes transport us back to an era when Japanese anime’s were mere cinematic buffoonery. 


We were hoping for something akin to what Kiyoshi Kurosawa cobbled up in one of his environmental horror flicks. An environmental comedy - sounds like novelty, right? But there really wasn't adequate facility for such ambition. In fact, the narrative strain abruptly explaining “garbage segregation” was grossly misplaced; not to mention too compendious to appreciate. And what environmental message does a film carry when, to be able to seek the attention of the superhero, the aggrieved party had to create clutter and pollute his environment? We could be pleased with the slap-happy ardor of its cast, but there’s nothing much beyond its absurdity. Unfortunately, even the makers know this. Read their poster blurbs.
What differentiates cinematic adventure from a boobtube gagshow if the narrative design is starkly hobbled by incongruent plot devices? Inspiration is easily thrown out the window when a character starts bawling her heart out simply because “ang lamig ng kape ko” – or that her pandesal is cold as ice? Huh? Sineng Pambansa maybe “free” cinema, but freedom doesn't necessarily make good movies, and the proof of the pudding, so to speak, is in the “eating”. This just wasn't well baked. 

Angelina Kanapi, like Irma Adlawan, displays bad theater habits. She's in desperate need of a smidgen of sedative.

Gee Canlas plays the cheerful girl-next-door Rowena similar to her character in "Melodrama Negra".

Jobert Austria plays the mayor of Purok Ocho. Now imagine if you removed his character in the story. Would it radically change the plot? :)

Victor Anastacio is the garbage-attracting superhero. Anastacio was a product of Jack TV's search for a stand-up comic.

The toothsome Lims: Dan (who plays Kenneth Balboa, the protagonist's best friend) and director Dominic. 


thunder29 said...

have you abandoned this blog? come back... come back...

Cathy Pena said...


Gene said...

Hear ye! Hear ye! Come back Ms. Cathy!

Cathy Pena said...

I don't have the answer to that just yet, Gene, but... thanks. ;)

Anonymous said...

Sa mga panahong nauulanan tayo ng mga ilusyonadong pelikula ng mga mapag-panggap na mga filmmaker at kanilang mga nabihag na inosenteng mga tao, namimiss ko ng lubusan ang sagad sa butong pagpunit at paga-analisa ng blog na ito. Wahhh!
Kailangan ka namin dito Ms. Cathy! -juan

isa pa, ang panget kasi na kapitan basura pa ang huling entry dito... parang katapusan na ng pelikulang pilipino... ;)

Cathy Pena said...

Oh my God! The Juan in my mind could be a different, albeit the sweetest, person after all! ;)

But thank you, dear!